Our urban landscapes are becoming increasingly complex and populated, presenting broad-ranging challenges regarding the sustainability and resilience of our cities, neighbourhoods and buildings. Understanding of the interaction between air flow, urban form and human activity is crucial in tackling many of these challenges, such as indoor and outdoor air quality, urban microclimates and wind engineering.

We employ a full suite of numerical simulation techniques, laboratory experiments and field data to inform and develop mathematical models. These models are capable of improved predictions to guide government agencies, city planners, developers and architects. We provide leadership within the UK Low-Energy Ventilation Network (www.lowenergyventilation.org), the Urban Fluid Mechanics (www.urbanfluidmechanics.org) and Experimental Flow Diagnostics (fluids.ac.uk/sig/xFD) Special Interest Groups – membership of which is open and comprises currently of more than 200 researchers and practitioners.

Urban air quality and microclimate – we develop modelling capability for urban air quality and microclimate, both through very high resolution models for detailed design, and much simpler models that can be used in the Master Planning stage. Current work involves:

  • Effect of vegetation on air quality and microclimate
  • Coupling with state-of-the-art traffic emission models
  • Active strategies to mitigate air pollution.

Efficient, Healthy and Productive Indoor Environments – we investigate the flows through buildings that determine our indoor environment. For example, a current PhD student project is examining affordable solutions to better ventilate the polluting smoke from dwellings where open fires and solid fuel stoves provide cooking and heating – a practice used by a third of the worldwide population and responsible for 4.3 million premature deaths each year.

Inverse Modelling – in addition to predictive models, we develop techniques for flow optimisation and inverse modelling. These approaches address problems involving uncertainty in design, such as determining

  • boundary conditions that correspond to observations;
  • extreme events and worst-case scenarios;
  • optimal control strategies for building ventilation;
  • flow reconstruction from surface measurements.

Professor Graham Hughes

Fluid Mechanics Section